Filosophy helps the budget cook in Hackney

EVERY WEEK I take £5 to Ridley Road market in Dalston, London, to spend on seasonal food, then tell you what I have chosen, and on Friday I publish a seasonal recipe and perhaps a few suggestions.
Some of the recipes will be frugal. They will all be tasty. Some meals will need additional ingredients. All will be vegetarian. 


Above, this week’s £5 basket:

Marrow 60p
4 courgettes £1
4 thick bunches of spinach £1
5 bunches spring onions
Cherry tomatoes (more than 50) £1

Total £4.60

Recipes (3): Turkish spinach pie, stuffed marrow, grated courgette salad

Equipment: small roasting pan; shallow roasting tray; 2 saucepans, 1 small, 1 large; pastry brush; colander; kitchen and paring knives, grater, salad bowl

Turkish spinach pie

Turkish spinach pie,

Serves 2 for a main course and 2 packed lunches
500g spinach
Bunch spring onions
3 eggs
250ml milk
Nutmeg to your taste
60g butter
Filo pastry. I bought 500g for £1.59 in the Turkish Food Centre, which also sold a 400g packet for 99p. But the ingredients included two E numbers.

Heat oven to 210C. Wash all vegetables. Wash rand e-wash the spinach in several changes of water to get rid of all the grit. I used two bunches of 496g. Chop or tear into hand-size pieces. Remove the root end of the spring onions and slice into 2cm lengths. Wash again to ensure that no grit lurks in the green stalks.

Melt 10g butter in the large saucepan over a gentle heat and toss in the spring onions. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the washed spinach and cook for 10/12 minutes until reduced yet not soggy.
While the greens are cooking, melt the remaining butter in the small saucepan. With the pastry brush, cover all sides of the roasting pan with some melted butter and place a sheet of filo pastry on top. Cover that sheet of pastry with melted butter and continue the same way until all sheets are used. There were 3 sheets in my packet.

Beat together the eggs, milk, seasoning and nutmeg. Remove spinach from heat and strain through a colander saving the water. Spread the spinach and onions over the base of the pastry, then pour over the egg mixture.

Take the overhanging pastry and fold over the filling, brushing the top of each sheet, as you go, with the remaining melted butter. Put in the hot oven and bake for 35/40 minutes until the top is light brown and crispy.

This pie can be eaten hot or cold with a crispy green salad and char-grilled peppers. My column gave a pepper recipe on 17 August 2012.

Stuffed marrow

Serves 2


Kitchen foil

Half a marrow

50g quinoa or other quick cooking grain to your taste

300ml stock (I used the leftover green water from the spinach)

Bunch spring onions

8 cherry tomatoes cut into halves or quarters, depending on size

Herbs of choice. I am using 2 sprigs of fresh marjoram.

Tbsp (tablespoon) of vegetable powder stock (I use a bouillon)

Clove of garlic

Bay leaf



Turn oven to 210C. Wash all vegetables. Rinse the grains under cold water to remove excess starch. Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh in the centre of the marrow and lightly cover the half marrow with salt and set aside.

Bring to the boil the 300ml of stock with the bay leaf and add the grains. Boil for 5 minutes then cover, turn down and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove pan but do not lift the lid for another 5 minutes. Rice, bulgar and couscous will have different cooking times. Check their packets for these times.

While the grains are cooking, sweat the onions in a small saucepan over a gentle heat until slightly wilted, add the cut tomatoes and mix in the herbs of choice. Sage, basil or thyme would go well. Stir for a minute and add the lid and leave to cook gently for 5-8 minutes until all is soft and looking like a thick sauce.

Rinse the salt from the marrow and pat dry and place on the shallow roasting tray. Add the onion-tomato mixture to the grains, removing the bay leaf, and stir together. Place the mixture in the centre of the marrow, pushing it firmly down to squeeze it all in. Brush some kitchen foil with oil and wrap it over the marrow and the tray.

Place in the hot oven and cook for 40 minutes. Serve with mashed sweet potatoes or steamed cauliflower.

Courgette salad

Quick and easy, serves 2

1 courgette

4 spring onions

1/4 yellow chilli, finely chopped

Tbsp sultanas

Tbsp sunflower seeds

Basil leaves to taste

Salad dressing of choice. I shall use one-part olive oil, two-parts cider vinegar, juice of 1 lemon, crushed garlic clove, salt and pepper, teaspoon of powdered mustard.


Wash all vegetables. Grate the courgette with the large size holes. Place in a colander to drain. Slice the spring onions into 1.5cmetre lengths and remember to wash again and dry. Place in a salad bowl with all other ingredients and pour over the salad dressing. Salad dressing can be tasted as prepared so experiment and taste as you go.

Tip: keep all vegetable water to use in soups and in cooking grains. Potato water is great for gravy-making. If it is not going to be used within a few days, freeze it. All good clean peelings can be cooked to make the basis of a vegetable stock adding a bay leaf, peppercorns, garlic clove, throw in want you think will work. Fresh bay leaves once used can be washed and use again.

Using up the vegetables in the basket from previous weeks will be easy and will make up for the expenditure on the filo pastry. Another courgette can be used in a ratatouille with the tomatoes and the last pepper and aubergine from previous weeks.

Other courgettes will be used in a cake instead of carrots (just as tasty). The other half of the marrow will be roasted and the spinach wilted and mixed with crushed garlic cloves and melted butter for serving as a side dish. More salads of tomatoes and spring onions, and an omelette with chopped spring onions and fresh herbs, can be made.

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